SALEM — State Sen. Shemia Fagan is Oregon’s Democratic candidate to become the next secretary of state.
The roller coaster race appeared to finally conclude Friday afternoon, when her opponent, state Sen. Mark Hass, D-Beaverton, conceded.
“It was an extremely tight race. In the end, I lost in double overtime. It’s OK,” Hass wrote on his Facebook wall. “I’m at peace. I kept my vow to run a positive campaign, heavy on ideas and substance, light on politics. This was important to me. It was a wild ride, with more twists and turns than a Spielberg movie.”
The state’s largest newspaper initially declared Hass the winner on Election Night, only to reverse course the following day and call the race for Fagan.
The latest tally shows Fagan’s lead growing, but the race remains relatively tight. Fagan led by 3,212 votes with 564,976 votes cast, according to Friday’s results.
Fagan called the election one “for the history books” and thanked her colleagues and supporters.
“We can all be proud of the voter turnout in this election. At a deeply uncertain time, Oregonians made sure their voices were heard — and thanks to our vote-by-mail system, tireless county election officials, and dedicated postal workers, their voices were,” Fagan said in a statement. “We’ve never faced a challenge like the one before us today, and we need leaders ready to take it on and ensure Oregon, and our democracy, emerge from this crisis stronger than before — I’m more than ready for the job.”
Oregon’s secretary of state is charged with overseeing elections, auditing and business registrations. It is also the first in line to assume the governorship if the elected governor can no longer serve in the role. When Gov. John Kitzhaber stepped aside amid scandal in 2015, then-Secretary of State Kate Brown assumed the role.
Fagan, an employment lawyer, is considered one of the more progressive members of the state Senate and ran to Hass’ left in the secretary of state race.
She entered the race late, less than three months before the primary, but received significant financial support from the state’s labor unions. Fagan has been open on the campaign trail about her upbringing, including visiting her mother who was homeless in East Portland and struggling with addiction. She has shared the story as a way to illustrate her passion for housing issues.
Fagan received significant financial support and was endorsed by unions representing a wide swath of public employees, NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon and the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, among other groups. She entered the race after Jennifer Williamson dropped out. Williamson quit before a story from the Willamette Week was scheduled to run questioning the use of her campaign funds.
Hass, a former journalist who works in advertising, spent nearly two decades serving as a lawmaker, both as a state representative for Washington County and in the state Senate starting in 2007.
Former congressional candidate Jamie McLeod-Skinner also made a run for the seat.
Current Secretary of State Bev Clarno — appointed to the position after the death of former Secretary Dennis Richardson — is not running for election. Fagan will now face another state senator: Republican Kim Thatcher of Keizer. Thatcher easily won the GOP primary Tuesday.